I mentioned in an earlier post that I would post a review of the dinner my wife and I enjoyed at Boka last Friday night. We became interested in trying this wonderful restaurant after several chowhounds gave it high marks. I made an early reservation, 5:30 so that we would be able to enjoy the meal without the hustle and bustle of later dining but as it turned out, by sitting in the outside area, we did not have to worry about another way too loud restaurant which makes it impossible to dine and talk without shouting.
First off, the staff waiting by the door seemed sincerely warm and pleasant. After a round of greetings we were given options on where to sit and opted for the outside area. I noticed the black tablecloths and napkins which is always a nice touch as we often wear black.
Our waiter, Jesse, was one of the best waiters we have ever experienced. Not only did he have the menu items down cold, but he was extremely knowledgeable about the wines. As it turns out, he has spent his entire professional life in restaurants and was once a sommelier. We were fortunate that he was our waiter as he manages the restaurant on Saturday and Sunday nights. The other waiters may be as excellent but we would not know as this was our first visit.
The staff was all over us during the meal, offering more of their excellent bread and butter, keeping our water glasses filled, and checking to see if we needed anything. Another nice touch.
Jessee helped us with our order and wine selection and the pairing of the wine with the food was excellent. They have a corkage and I always try to bring a bottle of wine with me but on this night the $25.00 seemed a bit much and we did not want to limit our wine drinking to just one wine. Go with friends and then you can share bottles.
After we placed our order, we were given an amuse consisting of a piece of tuna with an absolutely delicious sauce and topping. I wish I took notes but I was not planning on giving the restaurant a review but the meal was so outstanding that I just had to give the restaurant public high marks.
We ordered 2 First Courses. The first was the ash baked eggplant, white polenta, leeks, spiced pine nuts and Laura Chenel Chevre. The eggplant was practically non recognizable as it was pureed. The ensemble was absolutely delicious. We drank a glass of sauvignon blanc with this course and while I am not a white wine drinker for the most part, this particular wine was very fragrant and delicious. There is only one such wine on the menu by the glass so it will be easy to find.
The other First Course was the chamomile dusted quail, caramelized fenel,broccoli-marcona almond hash and semolina goat cheese croquette. Again, a real winner.
I thought that we were finished with the amuses but the waiter next brought out another dish on the house. There were 3 iems on the plate including a fried squash blossom stuffed with sun dried tomato and gruyere cheese. There was a piece of mozzarella cheese with something or other (again no notes) and a third item that I cannot remember for now. Each were outstanding.
Between the bread, which kept being offered to us, the First Courses, the wine and the amuses we were already getting filled.
Then came the Entrees. I was shocked when my wife ordered the New Zealand venison loin with Israeli couscous and baby squash with mole, which, by the way, had a nice kick to it. My wife never orders venison but it was an excellent choice - she loved it! And so did I. The wine we ordered was an Argentinian Malbec, one of our favorite grapes and again it was perfect with the venison.
I ordered something completely out of the ordinary for me - the herb dusted whitefish, cauliflower fondont, red and yellow cherry tomatoes and fiddlehead fern. Again, incredibly delicious!
We finished with cups of really wonderful coffee and 2 desserts - their signature blood orange creme brulee and a chocolate napoleon made with chocolate meringue. Again, wonderful.
And if the staff, food, setting were not enough, we were actually able to hear the jazz which was playing over the outside speakers and we were able to talk without cicada like restaurant noise so prevalent these days. In talking with one of the owners during and after the meal we were told that they went to some lengths to keep the din to a minimum. The restaurant filled up later in the evening but again, our early reservation allowed us to thoroughly enjoy this meal and still have the rest of the evening open to us which we took full advantage of by seeing Forbidden Broadway a few doors over at the Royal George.
In the past month we have been trying to hit some of the so called "Hot new restaurants" from the Chicago Magazine article. We both place Boka ahead of any of the other restaurants we tried including Chalkboard and Erba. We would go back to Erba again as the food was great - but the noise was unacceptable. Chalkboard would place a distant 3rd. Boka was in the top 20 in Chicago Magazine in 2003 I believe.
So if you try the restaurant the outside is great and ask for Jessee if he is available that night. As for cost, the meal ran us $125.00 plus tip and included 2 glasses of wine. The entrees averaged $28.00. The web site for Boka is www.bokachicago.com and you can see the current menu etc.